Davy the Maroon: The Jamaican Slave Catcher Who Made a Living Chasing Runaway Slaves

Captain Davy was an eighteenth-century Maroon officer who gained notoriety by killing chief Tacky, the leader of Tacky’s Revolt, the most dangerous slave rebellion in eighteenth-century Jamaica.

Davy the Maroon: The Jamaican Slave Catcher Who Made a Living Chasing Runaway Slaves

Davy was born in the early 18th century on a plantation in Jamaica. He was of African descent, but little else is known about his early life. What is clear, however, is that he was one of the lucky few who managed to escape from slavery and become a Maroon.

Maroons were former slaves who had escaped from plantations and established their own communities in the mountains and forests of Jamaica. They were fiercely independent and often engaged in guerilla warfare with the British authorities who sought to recapture them.

Following several failed attempts by the British authorities to capture and subdue the Maroons, a truce was eventually called in 1739 and 1740. The treaty signed between the British and the Maroons required the latter not to harbour new runaway slaves, but to instead help catch them, in exchange for which they would receive rewards from the colonial authorities. This agreement effectively made the Maroons enforcers of the slave system, which some of them took to with enthusiasm.

Davy, it seems, saw an opportunity to make a living by tracking down runaway slaves and returning them to their masters. He became a skilled hunter, using his knowledge of the island’s terrain and his expertise in tracking to find runaways. He would then capture and bring them back to their owners, earning himself a handsome reward in the process.

In the 1760 slave rebellion, also known as Tacky’s War, the British colonial authorities summoned the Jamaican Maroons to fight alongside local militias against Tacky and his rebels. Maroon contingents were commanded by the white superintendent of Moore Town, Charles Swigle, and the names of Maroon officers reporting to him were Clash and Sambo from Moore Town, Quaco and Cain from Charles Town, Jamaica, and Cudjo and Davy from Scott’s Hall (Jamaica).

Upon quelling the revolt, Davy and a group of Maroons hunted down Tacky and his loyal lieutenants. Tacky and his men went running through the woods being chased by the Maroons and their legendary marksman, Davy. While running at full speed, Davy shot Tacky and cut off his head as evidence, for which he would be richly rewarded.

Davy the Maroon, having made a name for himself as the killer of Chief Tacky, found that many plantation owners were willing to pay him to hunt down their runaway slaves. Davy and his teams of Maroons became notorious for their ability to track and capture fugitive slaves, and he made a considerable living from these activities.

Captain Davy passed away sometime in the late 1700s, likely in Jamaica. Some historians speculate that his violent profession as a Maroon officer and hunter of runaway slaves may have led to his untimely demise. Others suggest that he may have died of natural causes.

Mr Madu
Mr Madu
Mr Madu is a freelance writer, a lover of Africa and a frequent hiker who loves long, vigorous walks, usually on hills or mountains.


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